A cancer spheroid array chip was developed by modifying a micropillar and microwell structure to improve the evaluation of drugs targeting specific mutations such as phosphor-epidermal growth factor receptor (p-EGFR). The chip encapsulated cells in alginate and allowed cancer cells to grow for over seven days to form cancer spheroids. However, reagents or media used to screen drugs in a high-density spheroid array had to be replaced very carefully, and this was a tedious task. Particularly, the immunostaining of cancer spheroids required numerous steps to replace many of the reagents used for drug evaluation. To solve this problem, we adapted a micropillar and microwell structure to a spheroid array. Thus, culturing cancer spheroids in alginate spots attached to the micropillar allowed us to replace the reagents in the microwell chip with a single fill of fresh medium, without damaging the cancer spheroids. In this study, a cancer spheroid array was made from a p-EGFR-overexpressing cell line (A549 lung cancer cell line). In a 12 by 36 column array chip (25 mm by 75 mm), the spheroid over 100 µm in diameter started to form at day seven and p-EGFR was also considerably overexpressed. The array was used for p-EGFR inhibition and cell viability measurement against seventy drugs, including ten EGFR-targeting drugs. By comparing drug response in the spheroid array (spheroid model) with that in the single-cell model, we demonstrated that the two models showed different responses and that the spheroid model might be more resistant to some drugs, thus narrowing the choice of drug candidates.
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